Focus on building an experience relatable to your brand – Use technology to achieve that goal.
Shayak Sen co-founded Eat.Shop.Love along with his better half Oindrila Dasgupta with an aim to bring an exclusive but affordable women lifestyle brand to the Indian consumers. Shayak, a B. Arch. from IIT Roorkee and M. Des. from IDC – IIT Bombay had been fascinated with the world of start-ups since his early days. Whether in his stint at Rezonant, a design firm or CareerNet, then a growing recruitment agency, he enjoyed the energy and the learning associated with it. He began his career by co-founding Cheese – a boutique design firm that specialised in UI/UX design. Post Cheese he joined frog’s Indian operation. He was one of the earliest employees of frog India. After that he joined one of Cheese’s early client CommonFloor as their Head of User Experience. Eat.Shop.Love’s co-founder Oindrila comes in with a multi-dimensional background. She had worked in the media with leading newspaper like The Hindu, Femina and with ad agencies like Lowe Lintas and JWT. She also completed her post graduation in Social Media Marketing from IIM Bangalore, specialising in Branding and had been a digital media consultant.
The idea to start something on their own came when Oindrila quit her job to take care of their first kid. They decided to work on their strengths and ideas and started the online e-commerce venture Eat.Shop.Love. Focussing not only on sellable products, they wanted to make it a destination for a more holistic experience encompassing finer aspects of a woman’s life. Oindrila, with her social media and branding background began this with a low investment by setting up a page on Facebook and Shayak joined full time once they got some traction. Initially Oindrila started with ethnic designs. She carefully curated those and got them made by tailors and took it on the platform to sell them online. To scale this first they did market research and found out that there was a huge need for affordable western wear fashion. Every marketplace had the same set of limited collections and it was difficult for consumers to choose from and buy good quality products at an affordable price. This showed that there was a huge underserved gap for building an online fashion brand and they decided to create one.
Meanwhile the whole e-commerce market was also in flux. With large marketplaces having established themselves, small niche players with unique experiences were slowly developing. Knowing that a brand is all about how to attract, engage and give a good experience to customers, they worked on their buyer persona of a man (buying for a woman) /woman between 22 – 35 years and figured out what they will like to wear and what would make them wear it, and began speaking that language.They would forecast and analyse trends for their categories. Then select the clothes, design them and give it to the manufacturers to then make the apparels.
Talking on technology, Shayak mentions that he did not want to build something from scratch and reinvent the wheel at the early stage of their business. The focus was to use the best out-of-the-box technology solutions as they are not a marketplace. They built their site on Shopify, used templates and themes that best matched their experience and had a shop up and running with transactions happening. Meanwhile the whole team worked hard to come up with the logo, brand guidelines and designs of the collaterals, which were extremely important to strengthen the brand. The rapid expansion gave rise to a lot of additional functionalities and they needed to break the limitations of the Shopify platform. They have now launched their new website on Magento. On content marketing, they have a blog, a Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram account up and running along with Facebook. The plan is to have strong engagement around platforms.
The newest addition in the website has been ESL Moments, an exclusive luxury service offering where a bouquet of services are provided as a package to the users.
On Marketing side Shayak and Oindrila played on their strength in Social Media. Oindrila used focussed targeting techniques on FB to reach out to the right target group. Shayak believes that great products will find takers online if you can back up your brand with relevant engagement and association.
Shayak’s advice to early stage entrepreneurs is to focus on getting an MVP up and running as soon as possible. Don’t reinvent technology. Instead, minimise cost and focus on understanding the market. As you get feedback, constantly improvise based on market and scale. It is not necessary in early days to go for conventional marketing channels like outdoor, radio etc. New age digital channels are more powerful and creative use of them can help your brand scale at extremely reasonable prices.
Eat.Shop.Love has a core team of 6 people and all of them come from different backgrounds – design, media, fashion, business, supply chain management and technology. They have raised an angel fund of USD 3.5Mn and are planning to set up a large team of in-house fashion designers to develop more exclusive ranges.